Overview

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a type of cancer that affects the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is located between the back of your mouth and back of your nose.

Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East are among the regions of the world where nasopharyngeal cancer is more common. Any age can experience the onset of the illness, and children are not exempted. The condition affects almost half of people under the age of 55.

Despite the fact that this type of cancer often starts in the nasopharynx, it can also spread to other parts of the body. Early detection of nasopharyngeal cancer is challenging due to the symptoms being similar to those of other illnesses.

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of the two are typically used to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. Consultation with the specialist is needed to determine the best course of action for treatment.

Symptoms

The following symptoms may appear in the later stages:

  • Swollen lymph node which causes a mass in the neck
  • Presence of blood in the saliva
  • Presence of blood in nasal discharge
  • Nasal congestion
  • Ringing in the ears(tinnitus), frequent ear infection, ear fullness.
  • Hearing loss
  • Sore throat
  • Pain and numbness of the face
  • Having problems opening the mouth
  • Speaking or breathing difficulty
  • Headaches

If you notice these unusual signs and symptoms, consult your doctor.

Causes

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma starts at the squamous cell lining of the nasopharynx. Generally, cancer begins when the normal cell undergo a genetic mutation which instructs the cells to grow and divide rapidly. This uncontrollable growth will later on spread to other areas of the body (metastasis).
The specific cause of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is unknown but Epstein-Barr virus may increase the risk of this disease.

Risk factors

Some risk factors that may cause nasopharyngeal carcinoma are the following:

  • Gender. Men most commonly develop nasopharyngeal carcinoma than women.
  • Race. People living in Southeast Asia, Southern China and Northern Africa or those living abroad with Asian descent.
  • Age. Most commonly diagnosed in adults from 30 to 50 years old.
  • Salt-cured foods. Salt-cured foods emit chemicals that may be inhaled and reach the nasal cavity.
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). This virus is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis. EBV infection can increase the chance of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Family history of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
  • Tobacco and alcohol. Excessive smoking of tobacco and alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.